for the first time in ages I welcome the warm weight of a small child on my lap the nape of her neck beneath her silken hairline smells soft with sunshine and throws me back
echoes of so many moments with my children and those of others my old voice invigorates with characters begging to be lifted from the pages of her storybook wizards, witches and fairies waiting to be planted into the opening mind of this small girl at her birthday celebration two years old today
her wide eyes crease into smiles she shares her gurgling laugh
before her older cousins burst into our space singing happy birthday and Gracie wriggles down to dance flying up and away
Your eyes seek affection, after your harsh words.
Do I mean our harsh words or yours? Where does one start, the other end. I find I cannot switch on love, smoothly like electric lights. You flinch from the flint flashes in my eyes. I meet your proffered kiss with stiff lips –
within, my heart’s arrhythmic, my stomach churns to acid with bile. I must go.
I push past you in the doorway, smell the sweet sweat of your skin, feel tears prickling. I wish I could backtrack, but still your words stick like prune stones, words of affection choke me, scratch my constricted throat.